The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Nutrition & Food Information'

Mystic Middle Eastern Cuisine
The Mystic Middle East, home of Arabian nights and the Eastern promise, belies the true nature of the simple honest food of the region.  Far from ‘exotic’ as the Persian names suggest, this cuisine is so much more about simple and uncomplicated flavours and often overlooked.  Middle Eastern dishes principally originate from Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and Persia.  It is also the birthplace of wheat, barley, pistachios, dates, figs and of course the jewel in the crown – pomegranates.  The practice of fermentation of dough for bread also started in this region and led to the creation of the earliest form of leavened bread.

There is a common misconception that Middle Eastern food is ‘spicy’ yet this region of cooking uses no or little chilli in food, instead relying on black pepper and garlic as the heat form.  Non heating bearing spices are an important part of Middle Eastern cooking, especially Cardamom, saffron, Cinnamon and cumin, as these are responsible for giving the food its depth of flavour.  Nuts are also used extensively, particularly almonds, pistachios and walnuts, adding texture but also providing plenty of nutrients, vitamins and good fats (perhaps not so much in the deliciously sweet treat Baklava)

Dates are widely known for aiding digestive problems.  They are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, often consumed to help relieve constipation.  Yet did you know that dates have many other health benefits?

  • Dates are full of potassium which is brilliant for our nervous system. They are cholesterol free and help to lower our cholesterol. This in turn keeps our heart healthy and reduces the risk of stroke.

  • They are a natural energy booster, as they contain natural sugars. When having an afternoon ‘slump’ snack on some dates for a low calorie snack.

  • They are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 along with vitamin A1 and C. This means you get receive your daily dose of a number of vitamins just from eating a few dates.

  • Dates contain iron, so brilliant to treat and prevent anemia.


When added to a chicken tagine, cooked on a slow heat, they provide a delicious subtle sweet flavour into the dish, giving you that melt in the mouth texture and gentle aromatic finish.

Our Middle Eastern cookery class is a brilliant way to learn how to blend an array of aromatic spices to create authentic dishes such as Moroccan Couscous with Apricots, Lebanese Kibbeh, and Chicken Tagine with Dates and Almonds.  The class will teach you the perfect menu to create a feast for friends, a dinner party, or even simple mid-week suppers, creating a wonderful sense of occasion.  Middle Eastern cuisine is amongst my favourite food, the use of such simple spices, yet produces an array of enchanting flavours unlike any other that are incredibly tasty and flavoursome.  Come and join us on our next class and be prepared to celebrate such beautiful flavours from so many cultures in one simple menu.
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How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning?
How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Personally, I prefer mine in the afternoon, hard boiled and served with a fresh green garden salad and juicy tomatoes. However you like your eggs, there’s one thing you’ll be pleased to know you, eggs are highly nutritious, packed full of nutrients and vitamins to keep our bodies healthy no matter when or how you eat them (possibly not so much when served in a cake!)

Both the white and yolk of the egg are equally as important as one another. While the egg white contains the majority of the protein and virtually fat-free, the yolk contains many of the essential nutrients and fatty acids our body needs. Most people tried to avoid the yolk when dieting, yet you really should be consuming the entire egg to maximise the nutrition.

There has been much speculation on the yolk raising our cholesterol levels; however the effect is minimal when compared to the effect of saturated fats.  Therefore, a fried egg would be bad for our cholesterol levels, but this is purely due to the oil used to fry it, whereas a boiled egg or poached would be very good.

The Nutrition from Eggs

  • We all know that eggs are a good source of calcium, yet did you know this comes primarily from the yolk? One egg yolk contains 21.9mg of calcium, whereas the white only contains 2.3mg. Therefore we need to cook with the yolk to keep our bones strong and healthy.

  • The whites are good sources of magnesium, which our bodies need to regulate muscle and nerve function. It’s also important in keeping bones healthy and helps with the production of protein and DNA. One egg white contains 3.6mg of magnesium.

  • Both the egg whites and yolks are high in selenium. One egg contains around 15mg which is 21% of our daily recommended value (6mg from the whites and 9mg from the yolk). Selenium is important to keep the immune system healthy and fertility in both men and women.

  • One is egg is full of vitamins! It has 15% of our recommended daily value of Vitamin B2, 9% of vitamin B12, and 6% of Vitamin A.


With so many different ways to cook eggs, you can be sure to never get bored with the flavour. Rather boiled and soldiers or fried on toast, why not try something a little different with your eggs?

For a main meal why not create a sweet potato and red pepper Spanish omelette? Or add some smoked salmon, spinach, or onion to liven up your scrambled eggs?  Our nutritional cookery class guides you through a delicious poached egg on a fondue of tomato, a perfect way to start the day or for a brunch idea!

 

#healthyeating #healthylifestyle #healthyfood #eggs #protein #nutritional #nutrition #nutritionaleating #corporatenutrition #nutritionintheworkplace
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'Berry Mad' - Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding
We’re berry mad here at The Cooking Academy as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries are now in season!

Berries are a food we should all be consuming now more than ever, as not only are they deliciously tasty, they are also high in fibre, low in fat and one of the best sources of antioxidants and vitamin C to boost our immune systems.  Berries are also good for the heart and keep you looking younger, so what’s not to like.

So how can you tell if your berry is ready to be eaten?

Firstly ensure that the whole berry is rich and vivid in colour.  For example, a strawberry should be a deep red throughout, if it is still white on the inside or around the leaf area, this is a sign that it’s still under-ripe.  If possible, give them a slight squeeze!  Ripe berries should be soft yet still firm and plump.  If they are easily squashed between your fingers or mushy this means the fruit has now passed its best.  When harvesting, the berry should fall off the plant. If you need to give them a slight tug, it means they are not ready to be picked or eaten.

Incidentally, blueberries aren't actually blue, but deep purple, which is the colour of anthocyanin, a pigment that is especially rich in blueberries.  The anthocyanin is an anti-inflammatory agent.  Generally the darker the berry the more anthocyanins are present.  Essentially, the darker the colour of a food, the higher the contents of antioxidants and nutrients will be, and the healthier the food.  In fact, one health and nutrition study found that those who ate purple fruit and vegetables regularly had a reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

We took our own advice and went strawberry picking to ensure we had the juiciest, plumpest strawberries to cook with and promptly rewarded ourselves with a well-deserved treat of tea and our rather scrumptious rhubarb and strawberry pudding!  A beautifully moist sponge, topped with sweet and tangy rhubarb and strawberry compote is perfect for summer garden parties with friends, or just to enjoy with afternoon tea, not that we need an excuse to eat a pudding.

The recipe was inspired by our dear colleague over in California, Shanna, who regularly contributes to our blogs and you can follow her delicious recipes on Instagram @shannawashungry

Our nutritional cookery class also provides information relating to nutritionally dense ingredients such as the use of nuts, seeds and berries in cooking.

 

Rhubarb And Strawberry Pudding 

Ingredients:

FOR THE fruit TOPPING

3 stalks of rhubarb

7-8 strawberries

40g brown sugar

4 tsp corn flour

FOR THE SYRUP

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp brown sugar

FOR THE sponge 

190g plain flour

100g sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp honey or maple syrup

125 ml rapeseed oil

180 ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, use regular milk and omit the water)

40 ml water

 

Preparation instructions:

  1. Firstly, grease a bundt tin or a cake tin without a loose bottom and preheat the oven to 180º C or gas mark 4

  2. Prepare all the fruit and place into a bowl.  Add the sugar and corn flour and stir together.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar and let it all melt together for 2 mins.  Add this mixture to the bottom of the sponge tin.

  4. Now add the fruit mixture on top of this and set aside.

  5. To make the sponge, add all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.

  6. Next add the liquid ingredients to the bowl and mix together. Pour the sponge mixture on top of the fruit in the tin.

  7. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. When you press the top, the cake should bounce back. Or if you insert a skewer, it should come out clean.

  8. Let it cool slightly and serve.

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Spanish Tapas Squid and Alioli
Perfect for the summer, this simple dish will bring a lovely taste of seaside Spain to your table. The squid may well be deep-fried, but they taste lovely and light, with the alioli making the perfect accompaniment as a dipping sauce. Our Spanish tapas class teaches you an array of authentic tapas dishes, brilliant to share with family and friends in the summer evenings. Now all you would have to worry about is the weather staying nice!

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

20g semolina flour

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp garlic granules

1tsp dried oregano or marjoram leaves, crumbled

2 medium squid or cuttlefish tubes, sliced into 1cm rounds(10 rings) – dried with paper towel.

Oil for deep frying

To serve:

Alioli

Fresh lemon or lime

                                                                                   

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Put the semolina flour, salt, black pepper, garlic granules and oregano in a bowl.

  2. Make sure the squid rings are dry before tossing them in the flour mixture until well coated.

  3. Rest the coated rings on a plate and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.


 

  1. Fill a deep frying pan or a karahi or electric deep-fryer one-third full with oil. Heat to 195˚C or until a 1cm cube of bread browns in about 30sec. Fry the prepared squid in the hot oil in batches if too many. Cook for 30-45 sec, which is the minimum time it takes to set the seafood to firm whiteness and make the coating crisp.

  2. Remove, drain and keep hot. Continue until all of the squid are cooked.

  3. Serve a pile of squid rings on each plate, with the ½ lemon, if using, and a large spoonful of alioli and or Romesco sauce


Cooks Tip 1: Add chilli flakes to the flour mix if you prefer a kick
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Icecream Vs Gelato
We all deserve a treat from time to time, and I plan to take advantage of this when visiting the Gelato festival this weekend at Spitalfields Market, London.

Since I was little ice cream has always been my weakness. Every holiday a tub of strawberry ice cream would do the trick to keep me quiet.  Since having visited Italy on numerous times, renowned for their gelato (the Italian word for ice-cream) I have been transformed into a gelato addict! And let me tell you - there is a big difference!

Before even placing a spoon into my mouth, the beautiful silken, smooth, and flawless appearance of gelato makes me salivate with anticipation. It has a beautiful elasticity that can be easily moldable to create beautiful swirls and gloopy gelato peaks that simply cascade like cold lava in the mouth.

In texture ice cream is much fluffier and lighter.  When making ice cream, milk, cream and egg yolks are cooked together to form a custard base.  This is then churned at a high speed to add air and volume. The fat content from the cream binds with the water molecules, eliminating large frozen crystals forming and creating a light density which allows air to be present.  The lower the fat content or cream content, then icier the ice cream will taste, ergo cheaper brands.

Compared to ice cream, gelato is very dense as it is churned at a slower rate, meaning less air is whipped into the mixture. Gelato uses more milk than cream, so shouldn’t contain as much fat and therefore doesn’t bind as easily with the water, hence the denser consistency.

The serving temperature also differs from one another. Although both are ice cold, gelato is served at a warmer temperature, keeping its silky soft texture. The air content in ice cream means it can be frozen solid, yet still scoop able, especially if the cream content is higher.

Whether you have a preference for ice cream or gelato, they are brilliant as a delicious dessert or a naughty daytime treat.  If this summer weather is set to continue, I’m afraid I wouldn’t say no to either!

 

#icecream #gelato #gelatofestival #spitalfields #icecreamorgelato? #summer #makingicecream #makinggelato

Image - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFruit_sorbetto_at_Gelato_Naia%2C_September_8%2C_2008.jpg
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